Alaska Airlines Cathay Pacific News

Alaska Mileage Plan adding online booking for Cathay Pacific awards

You'll be able to search and book Cathay Pacific awards online using Alaska Mileage Plan from October.

Is bad news in store though? From December, award chart "changes" will kick in, and we all know what that might mean...

For years Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles have been a great way to tap into good value First and Business Class redemptions with a variety of oneworld and partner airlines, with the programme boasting some great ‘sweet spots’ for Asia-based travellers.

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Granted, this frequent flyer currency became a lot less attractive back in 2019, when the intra-Asia ‘stopover trick’ was shut down, but excellent rates still exist for long-haul flights with the likes of Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.

Now that restriction-free travel is making a comeback even in North Asia, interest in Alaska Mileage Plan is definitely starting to return, and there’s some good news from next month.

Cathay awards go online in October

One of the biggest bugbears with the programme is that great value Cathay Pacific awards using Alaska miles are not searchable or bookable online, so you currently have to call Alaska to secure them, typically using Skype or a similar service.

That typically means using the British Airways Avios or American Airlines AAdvantage search engines to check award availability beforehand, then calling up to lock in the award (if the agent can also see it!).

Securing Cathay Pacific awards using Alaska miles currently means doing so over the phone. (Photo: Beckett Pfahler)

From October 2022, this issue will finally be resolved, with Cathay Pacific awards using Alaska Mileage Plan miles becoming searchable and bookable wholly online, like they are for partners like JAL and Finnair.

Good news for 2022!  Cathay Pacific awards will be available to book on alaskaair.com in October and LATAM awards will be available before the end of 2022.

Alaska Airlines

For our American-based readers, it’s also good to know that LATAM awards will be bookable online using Alaska miles from later this year.

Cathay Pacific results will appear on Alaska’s online booking engine from October 2022

Cathay and LATAM are currently the programme’s only two partners requiring award booking over the phone, so this will effectively bring all Alaska miles award options online.

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It will be interesting to compare online Cathay Pacific award inventory via Alaska Mileage Plan with that offered to other oneworld partners, once the functionality goes live.

Alaska’s award search engine includes calendar search by cabin class

In the past, before Alaska joined oneworld, we’ve witnessed both less and sometimes more award space available for miles redemption through the Alaska programme than Cathay was offering to British Airways, for example.

Award chart “changes” are coming in December

Alaska Mileage Plan currently has a separate award chart for each of its partner airlines.

For example, to redeem Alaska miles to fly from Singapore to Tokyo in Business Class will cost you a different amount, depending on the partner airline you redeem for:

  • Cathay Pacific: 22,500 miles
  • JAL: 25,000 miles
  • SIA: 60,000 miles

When Alaska Airlines joined the oneworld alliance, it developed separate award charts for each of its new partners (like Malaysia Airlines), and retained rates for existing partners (like Qantas and JAL).

Here in Singapore, most of our readers accrue Alaska miles by buying them in one of the programme’s regular sales, so it’s important to be extracting good value for them whenever redeeming.

Alaska is now saying there will be a simplified way to view the award charts on its site from December 2022, with a “simplified award chart” on the way.

Starting late December, the way you view award charts online is changing. We’ll have a simplified award chart to show you where award levels start based on which regions you’re traveling from and to.

Alaska Airlines

It’s important to note that Alaska is not saying that award rates will change at the same time, but in fairness the airline is also not saying that they won’t change.

Together as one: could a unified award chart when using Alaska miles on alliance and partner flights be coming later this year? (Photo: oneworld)

More worryingly, there’s the possibility of more dynamic award pricing in store, with redemption rates based on supply and demand, though this concept already exists for some Alaska miles partners, like Aer Lingus.

With this change, similar to awards on Alaska, partner award levels may vary depending on multiple factors including route, distance, or demand.

Alaska Airlines

Don’t worry though – whatever happens Alaska is promising that your miles will still be valuable!

You’ll continue to be able to enjoy great value for your miles.

Alaska Airlines

If the rates themselves change at the end of the year – we’ll be the judge of that!

So, what’s the big fear here? Well there’s nothing to get too worried about at the moment, but some of the language about “changes” and “still getting great value” do sound a little like devaluation talk.

Basically, that could mean that the great ‘sweet spots’ like Cathay Pacific Asia to USA Business Class awards for 50,000 Alaska miles are potentially in the danger zone.

Long-haul Asia – USA redemptions on Cathay Pacific are a great use of Alaska miles… for now! (Photo: The Points Guy)

That would be quite annoying, because Hong Kong is only just relaxing its border measures, and Cathay Pacific is only just starting to get back on its feet, with just a third of pre-pandemic capacity planned by the end of this year.

Just as good Cathay Pacific award options may start to become available again for travel in 2023, and online search and booking functionality is added, Alaska could be preparing to pull the devaluation rug from under us.

Which ‘sweet spots’ could be at risk?

As far as our readers in Asia-Pacific are concerned, good (or excellent) value redemptions using Alaska miles are basically limited to selected Cathay Pacific, JAL, Qantas or Korean Air awards.

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Here’s a look at just some of the ones we get good value from, when redeeming Alaska miles.

Alaska Mileage Plan ‘sweet spots’

‘Sweet Spot’ AStrans
Singapore to New York
Business Class
65,000
miles
Singapore to Tokyo
Business Class
25,000
miles
Singapore to Los Angeles
First Class
70,000
miles
Singapore to Los Angeles
Business Class
50,000
miles
Sydney to New York
First Class
80,000
miles
Sydney to New York
Business Class
60,000
miles
Hong Kong to London
Business Class
42,500
miles
Singapore to Tokyo
Business Class
22,500
miles
Sydney to New York
First Class
80,000
miles
Sydney to Dallas
First Class
70,000
miles
Sydney to Dallas
Business Class
55,000
miles
Perth to Sydney
Business Class
20,000
miles
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Korean_Air_Small.png Singapore to Chicago
(return)
Business Class
120,000
miles
(return)

You can view the full current Alaska miles award charts here.

(Photo: Thiago B Trevisan / Shutterstock)

There should be 90 days notice

Alaska always promised to give 90 days notice of any change to existing partner award rates.

“We will strive to give at least 90 days’ notice if changes are coming to any current partner awards”

Alaska Airlines

For example, let’s suppose a new harmonised Mileage Plan oneworld award chart, with existing Cathay and JAL ‘sweet spots’ removed, comes into effect from 31st December 2022.

In theory, Alaska should then be revealing these new award rates by 2nd October 2022, allowing you three months to redeem at existing rates. That would mean the ability to continue to make the current (good value) redemption bookings for flights well into 2023, softening the blow of a devaluation, in indeed that’s what the airline is planning.

There should still be time to book good value awards on Cathay Pacific, like Singapore to the USA for 50,000 Alaska Miles in Business Class, for travel well into 2023, even if a devaluation happens. (Photo: Cathay Pacific)

What sort of rates could we expect?

This is a guessing game at this stage, but hopefully any new award rates would be published soon, given Alaska’s “90-day promise”, assuming they intend to adjust rates from December this year.

Unfortunately, if that happens it’s like to be bad news for the valuable options we outlined above.

Why do we think that?

Well, you only have to look at Alaska’s recently added award charts, such as those for Qatar Airways and Malaysia Airlines, to get an idea of what’s likely to come (it’s not pretty!).

Alaska is unlikely to significantly improve the value of these new award options so soon after introducing them, so a potential harmonised partner-wide chart would probably go “lowest common denominator”, in our view.

Will multi-partner awards be added?

Currently you can’t include more than one partner in an Alaska Mileage Plan redemption, with the exception of combining an Alaska Airlines flight with a single partner.

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Alaska might have a harmonised single award chart in store, applicable to all partners.

If so, it should then become possible to combine multiple oneworld airlines in a single award booking (e.g. SIN-BKK on Cathay Pacific, BKK-AMM on Royal Jordanian), like it is with other oneworld frequent flyer schemes like Avios.

Whether this would prove to offer any significant benefit will of course depend on how the rates for such a chart would look.

Summary

In welcome news, it will finally be possible to search and book Cathay Pacific award space using Alaska miles wholly online, avoiding the need to use other sites to check for award space then call up Mileage Plan to book over the phone.

In more worrying news, however, Alaska seems set to make award chart “changes” from December 2022, which could see rates increased or even the programme adopting a harmonised award chart for all partner redemptions, with the potential for dynamic pricing in some cases.

That would likely mean the excellent ‘sweet spots’ in this programme for Asia-based members on the likes of Cathay Pacific and JAL could be in line for some unwelcome adjustment, given some of the dreadful rates we’ve seen published for Alaska’s latest oneworld partners like Malaysia Airlines.

The good news is that even if those 50,000 miles transpacific Business Class ‘sweet spots’ do take a devaluation hit, Alaska Airlines has promised to give us 90 days to lock in awards at existing rates, hopefully giving us redemption options well into 2023, even if we ultimately have to ‘cash out’ of the programme.

Stay tuned as we inevitably hear more about this in the coming weeks.

(Cover Photo: Cathay Pacific)

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6 comments

  1. It’ll be interesting to see if MileagePlan will allow members to book all available CX flights between Asia and Europe (which until now is restricted to a few certain routes only) when CX award booking finally goes online and at what price point(s).

  2. Bad news… I see a roughly devaluation coming. Thanks God I didn’t buy miles during the last 60% bonus offer.
    There’s was a 5th sense that didn’t convince me. Now I guess what was it 😕